Tag Archives: class

Taking a step back from blogging and yoga

It’s been a while. I have not posted anything here for three months, the longest period I have ever gone without blogging since 2000 (before this blog started in 2004, I had another blog at Peruvian Graffiti). Moreover, I have not written anything substantive since last year, just a couple of quick shots from the hip and photos.

Why? The yoga scene has changed

When I took up yoga, pranayama and meditation, there was only archipelagos of content online across the Internet. I had my list of a handful of blogs, instructional sites, and, of course, Yoga Journal. Now there are abundant resources  available on the Internet, from streaming classes to forums, so many that I have given up trying to track them. Any yoga instructor worth their salt has a branded blog, with an apparel line, DVDs and books. More importantly, regional portals are providing local coverage of the yoga community, and diverse special interest groups (Yoga Service Council and International Association of Yoga Therapists, to name just two) are coalescing around yoga issues.

Even in the early 2000s, the mainstream media rarely covered yoga and related stories so I found it helpful to draw attention to major news stories and commentary that showed the spread of yoga in American culture.  I get Google alerts about yoga news stories everyday, and coverage ranges from quotidian (new studio opening on Main Street, park classes on Sunday) to PR (the fascination with yoga pants) to major (yoga macho Bikram Choudhury loses his copyright trial and the running suit about yoga in California public schools).  We even read about how the Indian government and Hindu culture is reacting to the assimilation of yoga within American society.  We even see yoga postures showing up in commercials and meditation getting billed as the latest productivity enhancement.

Yoga is moving beyond novelty and  trendiness. Increasingly voices are coming forward to ask questions about broader issues, to interpret major challenges to how yoga is practiced in America (insert links here  when I have time to dig them up).

Given these shifts over the past decade, I find it hard to register in my two cents in the blogosphere.

Why? I’ve changed

Last Friday, I took my first restorative class in three months. I’ve not taken a hatha class this year. That does not mean that I don’t practice yoga. I do everyday. I’ve intentionally down-throttled my practice from “trying-too-hard” to just trying to master one pose, savasana.

When I realized that I did not want to keep up a running commentary of yoga events in the news and elsewhere or try “big think” on yoga in America, I thought I could stay focused on my own practice, an aging, white male in search of the double whammy of physical exercise and mindfulness, with healing his subtle wounds as a bonus. But if my own practice is lying motionless on the floor, there’s not much to write home about. Of course, there’s a lot more going on under the skin, but that comes with its own risks.

I’ve also become more agnostic about yoga since about four years ago and even more so since I finished my yoga teacher training two years ago. Patanjali does not make easy sense for me; releasing the tension in my myofascial system does.

In a different vein, my wife dislikes that I reveal my inner life on the Web. I’ve become more aware of how the Internet gives unfiltered access to anyone who wants to search for dirt. I think twice before revealing my private thoughts. I’ve already written enough about my physical and mental health for a prospective employer to hesitate before hiring me. With a name like mine, though, I have a degree of deniability or security in numbers. But just knowing my LinkedIn or Facebook page would be enough to dig up my personal history or commentary about my former bosses or whatever.

Even making quick posts to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram makes me feel scattered all over the Internet.

So my original motives for blogging about yoga have faded, leaving me with the need to find another reason for writing. It’s going to require me to write my way forward.

Aging carries a surchage

I took my first yoga class in 12 days. It was a simple hatha class at Thrive Yoga with Jane Stelboum. Some would consider it a leisurely paced class; others would walk out because it did not include any major vinyasa sequences. It knocked the bejesus out of me. We held warrior II and lunges for what seemed like ages. I took child’s pose in surrender. As I write this, my hips, groin and back are aching. It is a physical pain that would intimidate a novice because yoga is supposed to be exercise for wimps.

Because I’ve broken through multiple layers of hardened fascia and let the yoga poses and alignment seep into my muscle memory, I find that I sink into the poses deeper. Because I’ve maintained my range of movement with my maintenance routines of stretching and restorative, I dive into a hatha pose without instinctive resistance pushing back. So when I dig that deep, I’m exposing whole bundles of muscles that have rarely been extended like this from a posture of weakness.

For nearly two weeks, I’ve shirked yoga class for what seemed like valid reasons (work, family, writing projects, schedule conflicts, cancelled classes, laziness, and reasons that I don’t want to confess in public), and I never picked up the slack with my home practice. And I was already in a deep deficit of physical conditioning. I am not even talking about recovering my stamina to what it was a year ago, after yoga teacher training, or three years ago when my parents health started going bad.

I swear I will not let this happen to me again (he said for the umpteenth time since taking up yoga!)!  Only 10 minutes, 20 minutes of vinyasa or weight-bearing poses on non-class days would go along way to sustaining performance.

At work, on the yoga mat, in front of a computer screen or with a blank sheet of paper and pen in hand, wherever, I am discovering that aging carries a surcharge. I am going to be 65 years old in seven weeks. My body and mind degrade automatically, noticeably, relentlessly, unless I make a conscious effort to cultivate resilience and hardiness.

Postscript: the pain hurts less the morning after.

Thieves in the Temple

This is not the first time that I’ve heard of theft in DC-area yoga studios, but Amy Dara gives a first-hand account of confronting a team of purse thieves while teaching a class:

Maybe you’ve heard the chatter in the Washington, D.C. yoga community: there are two young women stealing wallets from students’ bags during yoga classes at D.C. Metro Area studios. They’ve struck in Tenleytown, Bethesda, and Kensington. They entered the studio while I was teaching.

When students are on the mat, they are especially vulnerable because their focus is on their practice, not their personal belongings that may be stashed outside the room, in the hallway, in shelves or the dressing room. Studio operators may not turn up their alertness until the first incident happens; they trust their clients, too. Because most studios have limited space, it’s not always feasible to allow non-yoga items to clutter up the floor.

When I used to go to yoga in downtown DC after work, I arrived with my work paraphernalia, including a laptop. Now, I’ve gotten into the habit of leaving my wallet, smartphone and non-essential items in my car when I go into the yoga studio, not because of fear of theft, but a desire to lighten my load physically and mentally when prepping for class. Of course, that’s not possible for people who don’t drive to class.

New yoga listing for DC

The Washington, DC area just got a new yoga studio directory: DC Area Yoga. It looks that it has been operating since the start of the year, according to its blog. It also covers wellness and apparel. More power to them.

The operators seem to have a relationship with a Philadelphia directory and a Chicago one.  But if they want to feel intimated, just check out the other Chicago directory and print magazine: illumine. It has more than 200 studios listed, feature articles, commentary and a newsletter.

Missing my easy pose

Photo: meditators sitting cross-legged on the floor
Sitting cross legged in easy pose or Lotus.

Last night, I was practicing at Thrive Yoga and I felt as if I was fighting against a head wind. My balance was off and my feet did not seem to fall into alignment. My calves were tightening up.  My legs were heavy. With all these mixed signals from the ground up, my hips had lost their bearings. As I struggle through the class (great job, Dorota Preysnar), I tried to feel out where the problem was coming from.

Then, it came to me. The biggest change since the end of my yoga teacher training (YTT) last Thursday, has been a shift in my sitting habits. Yesterday, I had spent the full day working in front of my computer monitor and keyboard. During YTT, I would have been sitting cross-legged, propped up on a blanket or bolster, for at least three hours a day, maybe more. My hips screamed in anguish at times (learning Sanskrit with Pierre Couvillon), but I had experienced a major improvement in my hips (actually, an on-going shift accelerated by  YTT).

I used to have a kneeling chair at my computer, but I had to give it up because the pressure on my shins was cutting off circulation to my feet. Now I sit on the edge of a normal office chair. Now no longer working at an office, I broke my  habit of taking frequent breaks and stretching my legs.

Over the past five days, I have not been actively finding opportunities to sit cross-legged. I am going to have to switch some of my computer time (reading e-mails, web browsing, reading, using my laptop or a tablet) and TV watching  to a cross-legged position on the floor. I need to keep up the practice or my tissues will return to their old alignment — or worse.

Yoga teachers as rising rock stars

Photo: yoga class at Thrive Yoga
A wide-legged forward fold or Prasarita Padottanasana led by Suan Bowen

Each morning at Thrive Yoga‘s yoga teacher training (YTT)  participants join a 90-minute yoga practice led by the owner Susan Bowen or two other teachers, Sarah Wimsatt or Krista Block. Except for a few yin session that Susan gave as a change of pace, the classes have tested my yoga:  I’ve come out of the practice dripping in sweat, buzzing from the intense rinse cycle that my brain has been put through and feeling as if I had had an out-of-body experience. Just when I think I can’t go any deeper, I am led into new territory.

The physical practice is the number one reason I decided on YTT — I wanted to renew my hatha practice, increase my stamina, strength and flexibility, deepen my understanding of fundamentals and get back into my yoga groove that I lost when my parents died two and a half years ago. Continue reading Yoga teachers as rising rock stars

Photos – our first attempt at yoga teaching

The six of us participating in the Thrive Yoga teacher training July intensive lured a small group of friends and family to the studio on Monday afternoon to allow us to lead our first yoga class under controlled conditions. We each took a 20 minute segment that included pranayama, asana and awareness.

Photo: yoga class in Warrior 2 pose
Jenny St. Clair leads her sequence of poses, including Warrior 2, a pose that is a lot harder than it looks.

Some of our family and friends had never done any yoga before so they were challenged.

Continue reading Photos – our first attempt at yoga teaching

Daily practice anchors yoga training

Photo: yoga class in Warrior I pose
Virabhadrasana I at Thrive Yoga

One of the perks of yoga teacher training (YTT) is that you do a lot of yoga (duh!), in the case of an intensive program like Thrive Yoga‘s, everyday. We take a class first thing each morning. Right now, I’ve had 10 days in a row of classes (really 13 since I started my consecutive streak on July 5, but I get my first full day off this coming weekend). These can be grueling classes, such as the one Monday when we had a hot vinyasa class with the room’s street door open to the DC area’s humid heat wave. I ended up drenched, my sweat soaking my clothes and yoga towel, and pooling on the mat. Other times, mercy is shown by offering a yin class (long holds of mainly passive poses using props) or a change of pace predominantly focused on the legs (today). But don’t think that even these less intense classes don’t leave their mark on tissues and mind.

The morning class at Thrive has a roster of top-notch teachers (Susan Bowen, the owner herself and two high-energy instructors, contrarian Sarah Winsatt and Jivamukti-trained Kirsta Block) who put together challenging classes. Some sessions may be extensively thought-out while other times the instructor improvises as she reads the class, adjusts to the needs and skills of inexperienced students, or cues modifications for more advanced students. Continue reading Daily practice anchors yoga training

Offering yoga options for differing body sizes

People come to yoga class with all kinds of bodies and limitations, some obvious and others which the body owner is not aware of.

The Washington PostYoga for larger bodies:
“But Carlin still adored yoga, and in 2010, she went ahead with her plan to take teacher training, despite being the only “larger person” in the program. Beyond lessons on prenatal yoga that required her fellow trainees to strap big pillows to their bellies, most had no firsthand experience working with different bodies.”

Annie Carlin, the yoga instructor in question, teaches used to teach in DC, but has now moved back to Brooklyn. The yoga scene can seem to be commandeered by the slender and flexible, but others need it to, as this article shows. More teachers need to be aware of the diverse factors that affect how a person approaches yoga. Not all studios can offer classes exclusively for “larger bodies,” but they can offer modifications of poses. Annie has a website, Supportive Yoga, to provide the details missing from the news article and offer contact information and class scheduling.

The Washington Examiner offers another take: Yoga for all body types and sizes, including a video (2 minutes). Also see Curvy Yoga.

Asking a hypothetical question about fat yoga in DC

This news article is really about the absence of news:

Washingtonian  Does DC Need “Fat Yoga”?
Mulqueen says she can understand the uncomfortable feeling of walking into a room where you’re the minority; while she’s not overweight, she says she’s often the oldest person in her yoga studios. The same uncomfortable feeling is often felt among less flexible men or people who are completely new to the practice. Mulqueen points out, “Anyone who walks into a yoga room for the first time feels self-conscious.”

I suspect that we already have specialized yoga for overweight people in the DC area, but it’s organized as a private class, with one or more people participating. Most novices are fearful of doing yoga incorrectly; throw in the shame of being overweight and there’s an added incentive to take class in more controlled environment with teachers who are sensitive to specialized needs.

There’s an equally pointed question: is yoga too tailored to young, slender and athletic women? Look at the ads in Yoga Journal.